Dec 15, 2011

waiting in the stillness


There is a sense of peace that rings from the word, like a distant wind-chime on a lazy summer's day.

The Shepherd-King, David, wrote of the Good Shepherd [Jesus] who leads us beside still waters {Psalms 23:2}. Various synonyms are used in different translations: "quiet", "peaceful", and "restful waters." Basically, devoid of turmoil and motion.
As I think of the word stillness, I cannot help but want to close my eyes and drift to a peaceful sleep {which can also be attributed to my current lack of shut-eye}. What comfort to know that Jesus wants us to find rest in Him, to be refreshed and rested as we spend time in His presence. 

But, I must say {regretfully} that this is not always my frame of mind. No. Instead, I often see these periods of stillness and rest as boring and non-eventful. I yearn for a more exciting season, for the active, bubbly rivers that entice white-water rafting expeditions. A peaceful pond with not even a ripple of movement? Come on ... I want some action!

And I must admit {again, regretfully}, that these periods have led to discontentment in areas of my mind. Subtle enough that I hardly notice the slight twang of sarcasm in my voice when I comment on the current stillness in my life. 

So, what are we to do in these times of stillness? It may be a season of unemployment, singleness, confusion regarding a big decision. It may be seasons where you are calling on the Lord for guidance and you hear:


I certainly do not have the answer, but have drawn much encouragement from different writings that focus on waiting. And I don't write this in order to show off my own knowledge, but instead, to remind myself during my own times of stillness and waiting.

First, of course, the Bible gives great wisdom on what we can do while waiting in the stillness: 

Wait on the Lord. Be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord. {Ps. 27:14)  
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him {Ps. 37:7}

My soul waits for God alone, for my expectation is from Him {Ps. 62:5} 
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him {Lam. 3:25} 
Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me {Micah 7:7}
The lessons that can be gleaned from these verses all are centered on faith + trust in our Heavenly Father. Without trusting in His faithfulness, we are doomed to repeatedly go through worry and despair in times of waiting. We doubt. We fear. We take things in our own hands. But when we choose to seek Him in His Word, fill our minds and hearts with His Truth, we begin to see the beauty in stillness. 

In Hebrew, wait means to hope for, anticipate, expect. 
“To wait is not merely to remain impassive. It is to expect—to look for with patience, and also with submission. It is to long for, but not impatiently; to look for, but not to fret at the delay; to watch for, but not restlessly; to feel that if He does not come we will acquiesce, and yet to refuse to let the mind acquiesce in the feeling that He will not come.” -Andrew Davidson
 Many of the above Bible verses come from King David. Again I draw back to this Shepherd-King, who, before becoming King of Israel, had his own long season of waiting. The Prophet Samuel secretly anointed David as king when he was a young teen boy{1 Sam. 16:13}, yet David had to wait until he was nearly 40 years old to be anointed again as the king of the united Israel.

So, basically, if anyone could write about waiting, it was this man. He wrote many psalms while he was actively being pursued by the delusional King Saul; when he must have felt uncertain about what God had spoken to him years earlier.  How amazing {and fortunate for us} that David chose to write about these times of waiting and now we can be encouraged by the words he penned thousands of years ago. Realistically, if I was hiding away in various caves and forests from a crazy father-in-law who wanted to kill me, I really don't think I'd feel much obliged to sit down and journal my thoughts. I would much rather wallow in self-pity and grumble about my unfortunate circumstances, or try to fix matters in my own ways instead of waiting for God.  

But the story doesn't end there. David, of course, eventually becomes king. And his season of waiting and patience was the foundation of his character. Even when it seemed like he wasn't getting anywhere {other than a few feet from getting his head chopped off by Saul}, God was actively working behind the scenes in creating a King who would be an early picture or preview of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.

Today, God is still working in the stillness. He is active when all else seems inactive and silent. 

L.B. Cowman in Streams in the Desert elaborates on a beautiful quote of John Ruskin :
"There is no music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it." In our whole life-melody the music is broken off here and there by "rests" and we foolishly think we have come to the end of the tune . . . 
Not without design does God write the music of our lives. Be it ours to learn the tune and not be dismayed at the "rests". They are not to be slurred over, not to be omitted, not to destroy the melody, not to change the keynote. If we look up, God Himself will beat the time for us. With the eye on Him, we shall strike the next note full and clear. If we sadly say to ourselves, "There is no music in a rest," let us not forget "there is the making of music in it." The making of music is often a slow and painful process in this life. How patiently God works to teach us! How long He waits for us to learn the lesson!
There is a purpose for the "rest" periods in our lives.

Wow. Those words breathe peace into me every time  I read them over and over again! Although a "slow and painful process", the waiting seasons are vital for the beautiful melody to be played in clarity and fullness. May God, the Master Musician, teach us to be content in the "rest" periods even if they seem uneventful, for the music wouldn't be complete without them. It would be rushed and full of anxiety because of the lack of the healthy periods of stillness.  Have you ever heard of a song without any rests in it? The first song that comes to mind is Flight of the Bumblebee. If you haven't heard it, YouTube it. You will see why I say that one would feel quite  rushed and anxiety-ridden in a life without rests! 

Lastly, this beautiful poem by Russell Kelfer has been my comfort for many years for various seasons and reasons . . .  and oft times, it has served to gently convict me of my own grumbling.

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate . . .
And the Master so gently said, "Wait." 

"Wait? You say wait?" my indignant reply.
"Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is Your hand shortened? Or have You not heard?
By faith I have asked, and I'm claiming Your Word. 

"My future and all to which I relate
Hangs in the balance, and You tell me to wait?
I'm needing a 'yes', a go-ahead sign,
Or even a 'no' to which I can resign. 

"You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord I've been asking, and this is my cry:
I'm weary of asking! I need a reply." 

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate,
As my Master replied again, "Wait."
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
And grumbled to God, "So, I'm waiting for what?" 

He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine . . .
and He tenderly said, "I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.

"I could give all you seek and pleased you would be.
You'd have what you want, but you wouldn't know Me.
You'd not know the depth of My love for each saint.
You'd not know the power that I give to the faint.

"You'd not learn to see through clouds of despair;
You'd not learn to trust just by knowing I'm there.
You'd not know the joy of resting in Me
When darkness and silence are all you can see.

"You'd never experience the fullness of love
When the peace of My spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
But you'd not know the depth of the beat of My heart.

"The glow of my comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that's beyond getting just what you ask
From an infinite God who makes what you have last.

"You'd never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
But, oh, the loss, if you missed what I'm doing in you.

"So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to truly know Me.
And though oft My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still . . . Wait."

"You lead me beside still waters"

Dec 7, 2011

teacup theology

Pour yourself a cup of your favorite herbal tea and take a few minutes to read through this  excerpt from Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman's Guide to Finding Contentment by Linda Dillow:
My favorite translation of Philippians 4:13 is from the late Greek scholar, Kenneth West:
 "I am strong for all things in the One who constantly infuses strengthen in me"
At all times, in all circumstances, Christ is able and willing to provide the strength we need to be content. Contentment occurs when Christ's strength is infused into my weak body, soul, and spirit. To infuse means to pour, fill, soak, or extract. Every morning when I dip my herbal tea bag into boiling water, I witness infusion.
How does God enable us to be content? He infuses contentment into us through His Word. As it seeps into our minds, it transforms us. Just as a cup of tea gets stronger when we give it time to steep, so we become more content when we spend time in God's Word and allow it to seep into our lives, transforming us to be like Him. 
God has lovingly assigned each of us to be a uniquely special teacup. Perhaps we're an antique cup, painted with dainty roses set in gold. Maybe we see ourselves as an everyday cup -- useful, but a little chipped around the edges. Or we could be a heavy-duty mug -- rugged, unbreakable, and able to hold much.
Then God fills our cup with our portion, what He determines is best. Our portion is our physical and emotional being, our abilities, circumstances, roles, relationships. Sometimes we don't like what's been poured into our cup. Remember the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsamane. When He saw the suffering He was about to endure, He pleaded, "Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will but Yours be done" {Luke 22:42}. Christ grasped the handle of His cup and lifted it to God and said, "I accept My portion. Infuse Me with Your strength that I may drink."
Every cup -- whether dainty china or rough-hewn pottery -- has a handle. God has placed our portion in our cup. We either choose to grasp it by the handle and lift it to Him, saying, "I accept my portion; I accept this cup," or we choose to smash our cup to pieces, saying, "God, I refuse my portion. This cup is not the right size for me and I don't like what You've put in it. I'll control my life myself"

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength" {Philippians 4:11-13}

May we learn to "seep" in the Word of God, soaking in His Truth and allowing Him to teach us to be content. May we accept our portion -- however difficult it may seem -- as a divinely assigned cup, surrendering our own expectations in exchange for the joy of God's presence and peace in us.

So, my sweet sisters, hold onto the comforting hand of Jesus and let Him guide you through whatever valley you're going through, leading you to still waters and green pastures. 

Your sister,